Destruction Under Another Rainbow
The Main Event, Scoop, Friday, July 26, 2002
On Thursday, March 1, 2001, Bruce Hamilton did something he never thought he'd do, something that anyone who knows him finds hard to fathom, something that causes him to wince even now as he describes it.
He gathered together literally hundreds of delicate, finely detailed, high end Disney collectibles created by his company, Another Rainbow and - with witnesses present - he destroyed them.
What's more, The Walt Disney Company was in on it.
It didn't start out that way, of course. Hamilton and Another Rainbow had long been known as leading advocates of Disney characters in comic books, lithographs, and other items. Hamilton himself was one of the premiere Disney collectors, an early enthusiast, historian and collector of comics and other character collectibles. He and his firm had for over 20 years enjoyed a healthy relationship with Disney and had successfully promoted Carl Barks and his work to adoring fans.
"The company we produced the figurines through was a porcelain maker who specialized in world-class English bone china, in England, called Connoisseur of Malvern. They had expert sculptors and had a reputation primarily for doing flora and birds. In fact, in my living room I have number 2 in a limited edition of only 15 of a large macaw in foliage. It's just spectacular. I have it in a glass display case suspended over a staircase," Hamilton said.
"Russ Cochran and I were introduced to Connoisseur of Malvern by [noted Barks collector] Kerby Confer. He had been a fan of their English bone china and he had the idea that maybe some Disney figures could be done. He also introduced us to Ray Blackman, from the Brielle art gallery in New Jersey," he said. "The four of us met in a hotel room after Kerby had taken the liberty of financing a prototype of Uncle Scrooge from the painting Always Another Rainbow.
"There were some problems with it. The hat was not right. The feet and the legs weren't right. The sculptor did not understand the way that a duck was anatomically built. They wanted to make the duck stand like a man, but a duck's legs are far back on the body compared to where the head is if you look at Donald Duck or Uncle Scrooge in profile. Nonetheless, it was pretty impressive," he said.
"As a result of that one introduction, we then formed a very close alliance with Blackman and the owner of Brielle. Then we went over to England and worked with Connoisseur of Malvern. We sent a copy of the prototype to Carl, which he critiqued rather extensively," Hamilton said with a laugh. "On the basis of what Carl showed us about how to correct that first piece, I also learned a lot of the physical structure of the duck that I had never known before.
"After this first one, to avoid the same problem, Carl would provide us with several drawings of the duck or ducks as seen from the left, right, front, and back, so the sculptors would see how it looked in ways you couldn't just perceive from looking at the original," he said. "It made all the difference in the world. The sculptors still made an error or two, but it got to the point at the end when I didn't even need to bother Carl because I had his drawings to go by and compare against the prototype. That's the reason the figures look so much like Carl's work; it was his vision."
One of Hamilton's favorites, Lavender and Old Lace, featured the entire family of ducks. Based on what he describes as a "very two-dimensional painting," it was difficult ahead of time to imagine how the ducks would possibly look in three dimensions and yet still retain the familiar qualities of the original painting.
"But somehow he managed to do it," he said with another laugh.
The Lavender and Old Lace figure was also one of the first pieces Another Rainbow produced with a small print run.
"We originally produced 100 figurines, but we realized that was too many for something so pricey in our market at that particular time. We cut back to more expensive images, but in smaller editions. The one exception in how we produced them was Lavender and Old Lace. We produced them as they were sold. Even though we announced it as an edition of 25, I believe there were only 17 or 18 made. The numbers above that don't exist."
"I learned a lot about dimension," Hamilton said of what he learned from the process of creating, making and selling the Disney figurines. "You really need to think three-dimensionally when you're in this business because so much of what you see is two dimensional, all the posters, the lithographs, the comic books, pretty much everything. Thinking in three dimensions opens up a whole new arena. We produced a very elaborate three-dimensional bronze of the Wizard of Oz with the four main characters, and we produced some other figurines that ended up in the prototype stage."
In addition to the Disney, Oz and other projects, another of Hamilton's efforts came to fruition, though not yet on the consumer end of things.
"Something that fandom at large doesn't know is that I worked out a deal with Mort Walker and the International Museum of Cartoon Art and produced a small series of bronzes of Beetle Bailey and Sarge in a fight, called "Negotiations." It was actually sculpted by Mort Walker. A lot of people don't realize he has that depth. I have never released this edition into the market. All the bronzes are sitting in my storage area, waiting. I've already paid Mort and the museum their royalties," he said. "So it's home free and I can do whatever I want with it when the time comes."
Hamilton said that part of the process included being surprised once again by Carl Barks.
"Carl had depths he didn't even know he had. He drew nothing but two-dimensional characters most of his life. Yet when he started to get into oil paintings he realized that he was starting to get into the field of three-dimensional reality. Even though the characters were still flat, because of the shading he needed to start thinking three-dimensionally. He tackled that like he did every other job, with precision. He always had a flare for invention," he said.
"Gare Barks [Carl's wife] told a story of when he first wanted to start painting the ducks. He got out a Ping-Pong ball, attached a string to it, and studied it under different lighting conditions to figure out how shadows looked on a sphere. It was from studying that Ping-Pong ball that he finally learned how to shade the heads of the ducks. That's the way he approached everything."
Perils and Pitfalls
While every project has its pitfalls, Hamilton said that none of them came from working with Barks.
"No matter how big or complex a problem was, he would always make it seem easy. Whether it was easy for him or not, nobody knew. He always seemed to have the right answer for balance, for color, for the way he drew, even the way he would construct imaginary inventions," Hamilton said, pointing out the pulley used to lift the treasure in Return to Morgan's Island as an example. "If you were to try to construct it using the way it looked in the painting, he wanted it to really work."
Other problems were more from the technical side, particularly with the lithographs.
"Getting the printers to do the colors right was a problem, especially if we tried to do lithographs from photographs. When we did the Fine Art book, there must have been 50 different photographers involved," he said, sometimes resulting in a less than optimum reproduction. "A lot of paintings looked great as reproduced, but if you were to compare them to the original oils they look different."
While Hamilton said there were never any problems with Barks on the creative side of the business, being a Disney licensee wasn't without its ups and downs.
"Disney was surprisingly accommodating considering the type of company they turned into. In the very beginning you could strike a deal with Disney and they would honor it on the basis of a handshake. When the big shake-up came a number of years ago, the corporate raiders were after Disney. All the new people, [Michael] Eisner and [Frank] Wells and the MBAs, came in and tried to rethink the world according to Disney. All of the integrity that the early company had, in my opinion, vanished. You couldn't trust them even if you had a contract. Nonetheless, we remained grandfathered in by having been there before the regime took over," Hamilton said. "It was an uneasy alliance, but it went along for many years without any real problems."
He said that Another Rainbow was one time described as the "maraschino cherry" sitting on top of the sundae that represented all their licensees world wide.
"So you can see what a disappointment it was when little by little the people we had established these great relationships with all retired, quit, were fired, went away or were replaced by MBAs who didn't know their butts from a hole in the ground," he said.
Crush, Kill, Destroy
"What lead to it was that we had a five-year battle of me threatening Disney and Disney coming back and threatening me. Even though we had these battles, they were more like a sparing match until the Grandys [Bill and Kathy] becoming associated with Carl. They were going off and working deals with people in Europe, and the people in Europe didn't particularly care what kind of certificates of authenticity came with anything we did here. They would license product over there that would that would be in direct competition, releasing some of the same images in violation of our license. Disney would never have done anything like that during the old administration. When I complained about it, they flatly refused to do anything about it.
"It finally got so serious that toward to the end of 2000, all avenues of compromise or re-direction had been exhausted.
"So I proposed that we have a settlement conference with a professional mediator that would keep us from litigation. It was not an arbitration that would force a solution, but it would be handled by one of the top mediating concerns in the country, who had something like an 85-90% success ratio of reconciling differences between companies.
"When we first sat down, I did something the mediator wasn't prepared for. I said, 'Before we get into negotiations on any of the issues, I'm going to make a proposal to Disney.' The mediator said, 'No, you're not.' I said, 'Yes, I am.' The first battle of that day was 15 minutes into the session, when I got into a knock-down, drag-out fight with the mediator."
Hamilton prevailed. Years prior he had discussed with Disney their option to buy him out. He put this discussion back on the table. After outlining his expectation that the Faberge Eggs (Scrooge McDuck Midnight Eggs) and the figurines would only go on to a higher level of success if the inventory levels were reduced or if new ones were allowed to be made, he agreed to destroy all but his personal inventory if they agreed to his buyout price. The mediator talked to the Disney team about the offer.
"They said 'yes,' and it was over. They didn't question anything," Hamilton said, so the deal was done. All was not over, though.
A week later, a sort of last minute offer came in for all the lithographs, figurines and Faberge eggs. Hamilton said he wanted to accept, but Disney stuck to the letter of their then-new agreement and, unbelievably, passed on a huge royalty for themselves. Then came the actual destruction.
"The day of March 1, 2001, there were ten people present when these items which I have carefully documented were all destroyed. My wife Helen and I, my daughter, and my three grandchildren comprised six of the group of 10 that were there. The three grandchildren were the ones who actually destroyed them. At that age, this was a hoot. No one else present could have done it. They could because they didn't really understand what was going on.
"Disney had an official there named Guido Marx. In addition to my family, our side had a close family friend, Margaret Lambert, and a couple of collectors, Homer Kellogg and Ed Bergen," he said.
"There was a quarter million dollars worth of stuff smashed. The entire proceeding, from beginning to end, was videotaped. A figurine would be put into a box, one of the kids would work over the top of it so pieces of porcelain wouldn't go all over the place, and then they'd bring the hammer down," he said.
"I had gone through such an emotional roller coaster that by the time the day actually came around I was sort of numb. I was intrigued by the insanity of it all.
"The only thing that has kept the values down on these items in the past is that with a couple exceptions, most items were still available from us. So if someone wanted to buy one of them, particularly if they wanted a pristine, untouched figurine or lithograph, why would they buy a 'used' copy from someone else unless it was discounted?
"However, now there are only a handful remaining in my own personal collection. When the market becomes fully aware that they can't just go out and get them, prices could increase drastically. It takes knowledge. People have to know about it for it to have an impact," he said.
Hamilton said that he didn't expect to work with Disney again, but he wouldn't rule it out entirely because personnel and circumstances always change. After all, there's always another rainbow.
THE SCOOP ON THE WITNESSED DESTRUCTION
MARCH 1, 2001
Dude for a Day (figurine) *
Edition closed at: 74 (rather than 100)
Total destroyed: 26
Numbers destroyed: 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 25, 27, 30, 31, 33, 34, 36, 37, 38, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 49, 50, 100
Pick & Shovel Laborer (figurine) *
Edition closed at: 62 (rather than 100)
Total destroyed: 38
Numbers destroyed: 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, 33, 34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 52, 53, 54, 61, 63, 64, 65, 66, 71, 72, 77, 99, 100
Sixty Years Quacking (figurine) *
Edition closed at: 44 (rather than 100)
Total destroyed: 56
Numbers destroyed: 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 72, 77, 78, 84, 88, 95, 99
* The accompanying lithographs to these destroyed figurines were salvaged and turned over to The Walt Disney Company.
Quintessential Scrooge (figurine)
Edition closed at: 54 (rather than 500)
Total destroyed: 46
Numbers destroyed: N/A - 46 destroyed by individual count; the items were not numbered.
Special notes: Only 100 of the projected 500 of this edition were actually made.
Scrooge McDuck Midnight Eggs (Faberge Eggs)
Edition closed at: 73 rather than 250 (only 100 were actually made)
Total destroyed: 27
Numbers destroyed: 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 31, 33, 34, 36, 37, 38, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 54, 55, 56, 61, 62, 63, 64